While it certainly feels like Alabama is the best team in the SEC West, that doesn't mean it's guaranteed anything. While other divisions around the country have certainly closed the gap a bit in recent years, from top to bottom, there is no other division in college football as tough as this one.
So no matter how good you are or perceived to be, there are landmines strewn about in the SEC West that even a team like Alabama needs to be careful to avoid. Road trips against teams like Arkansas among them.
For a team like Alabama, with not just conference title hopes, but national title aspirations as well, this is another game it needs to get through. For Arkansas, though, it's a chance to make a statement. It would be the biggest win of Bret Bielema's tenure with the Hogs.
Alabama Storyline: Aside from its 48-43 win against Ole Miss this season, the Tide hasn't faced much of a challenge this year. In its other four games, it's won by an average of 37.5 points per game. Of course, one of the biggest differences between the Ole Miss game and the other four was that it was the only true road game Alabama has played this year (USC was a neutral site). This week's game against Arkansas is on the road, and it's also the beginning of what should be Alabama's most difficult stretch of the season. Following this game, the Tide must go on the road again next week to face Tennessee, and then Texas A&M comes to town the week after that. Then, after a bye, it has another road trip to face LSU. So while every game feels like a must-win in the SEC, this one takes on even more importance. The Tide can't afford to lose this one.
Arkansas Storyline: It was two years ago in Fayetteville that Bret Bielema had lost the first nine SEC games of his career at Arkansas when Alabama came to town. The Hogs came up just short against Alabama that October evening, losing 14-13 and denying Bielema his first SEC win. Since that game, though, things have improved as Arkansas is 7-8 in SEC play, but obviously its still looking for that signature win. This could be it, but in order for the Razorbacks to pull off the upset, they'll have to play a mistake-free game. They simply can't afford to have the red zone problems they had against Texas A&M against this Alabama team if they've even a prayer of winning this one.
Game Pick: Arkansas +13.5. While I think Alabama will just prove to be too much for Arkansas in the long run, I don't believe the Hogs are going to get blown out. The games between these two teams have been close the last two years, and Arkansas has typically done well against the spread in conference games under Bielema. So while I don't expect Alabama to ever truly be in jeopardy of losing this game, it isn't going to be able to coast at any point, either.
|Alabama at Arkansas, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN|
|Alabama -13.5|| || || || || || || |
For full Week 6 picks against the spread, check out our Expert Picks page.